In the early 1970s SUNY Oswego women -- faculty, staff and students -- began their discussions of women's issues and women's studies. The opening of the Women's Center in 1973 was the first concrete step towards addressing women's issues on campus. The center began as a service to women of this community and is still active today. At the same time women's studies was emerging as a vital and exciting academic discipline.
The founding "mothers," Barbara Gerber and Christine Pierce, with other faculty members, began to outline what would become the current women's studies minor. In Spring 1973 a Letter of Intent to establish a formal program was sent to the SUNY Central provost, then Dr. Virginia L. Radley, who the following year became the academic vice president at SUNY Oswego.
In 1978 Faculty Assembly approved the minor and it was published in the 1979 College Catalogue, the final act necessary to make it an official program. By 1982 the program had developed bylaws and established the Women's Studies Council, executive board, and various committees.
The Women's Studies Curriculum Committee began its work on a major in women's studies in 1995. The proposal was submitted to the Academic Policies Council in the Fall of 1997 and was passed in Faculty Assembly in spring 1998. In March 1999, the women's studies major became a reality. Christine Williams was the first student in the major, signing up for it only 24 hours after it was approved. Alicia MacArther was the second to sign up and graduated in May of 1999 with a double major in women's studies and sociology.
Since the early 1980s, the program has grown in terms of the number of classes offered, students graduating, contributions to the campus and larger community, and activities. In fall 1980 the program offered five classes; today we have 30 courses with new courses added every semester.
Since the program began, over 100 students have graduated with the minor, and the spring 1998 graduating class had 17 students, the highest rate of completion since the program began.
At the same time, the list of campus and community events that involve the women's studies program is constantly growing. We work with the Women's Center and YES (Young Enlightened Sistas) to plan Women's Herstory Month and other programs, sponsor luncheon seminars every semester, plan a program for Winter Breakout, present at Quest and produce our annual scholarship fundraiser Women Aloud.
The women's studies program offers two scholarships. The Diana Balmori Award, for a graduating women's studies major or minor who has contributed to women's empowerment on campus, comes from a generous endowment by a historian and landscape architect involved with the program in its early years. The Women Aloud Award, for a women's studies major or minor, is supported by the annual scholarship fundraiser, Women Aloud.
In 1998 Barbara Gerber was president of the National Women's Studies Association and in June, SUNY Oswego hosted the annual conference of the association. We planned our first women's studies reunion to coincide with the conference and were able to introduce some current students to alumnus. In fall 1999, the women's studies program launched its first effort to solicit funds from "Friends of Women's Studies."